06 September 2010

Quick Jalapeno Poppers

Labor Day weekend has something to do with football, right? And barbecues? I don't really know, I'm not a big sports fan and we've never had big parties on holiday weekends... but I do know that late summer is upon us and that means no more wearing white (although I doubt anyone in Tucson follows that old rule), the fall sports are just beginning, and soon the season of orange leaves and scarves and small children dressed up in costumes will be upon us.

I might just have to take frequent trips to Prescott to get my fall fix of nippy and gorgeous weather this year.

Anyways, the point I was getting to before I got all excited about the best season ever is that Labor Day Weekend is a mix of the last few days of summer and the first few days of those weird sports fans beginning to congregate in bars and stadiums and house parties to watch bulky guys run around and knock each other over, all leading to a way-bigger-than-it-should-be ultimate throw-down in February. What better way to kick off (heh... no pun intended) the start of football season than with some classic sports bar food?

I didn't like jalapenos or spicy food in general for a very long time. That's supposed to be a genetic trait (honest!), but for some reason somewhere in junior or senior year of high school that all changed and I was able to handle spicy food like a champ. I even started to enjoy it! But I never really understood peoples infatuations with jalapenos. Some people want 'em on everything! Sandwiches, salads, pizzas, eggs, you name it. This bewildered me until one evening a couple years ago I went to my good friend Marc's house for his birthday dinner. His sister made jalapenos stuffed with cheese and topped with bacon (which I took off) and they had to be among the best things I have ever tasted. I have a feeling a great deal of fat was involved. They were only mildly spicy, but the flavor of the jalapeno really came through. From then on, I too wanted jalapenos on all my food, and every time I saw "jalapeno poppers" on a menu, I would order them in a heartbeat.

Needless to say, I was less than impressed with the wilted, battered, and deep fried version most places had to offer. I knew I wanted to make some myself, but I figured good ones would be fairly complicated and time-consuming and I just never got around to it. Last week, though, when I went to Food City and they were selling 3 lbs of jalapenos for 99 cents, I knew I couldn't put it off any longer. When I looked up a couple recipes, I was surprised to find that many of the highest rated ones, including those made by the pioneer woman (whom I trust with all things food) only had three ingreidents: Jalapenos, Cream Cheese, and Bacon. What? such a simple recipe? Surely there had to be more! Well, I happened to have all three of those ingredients already so I put the recipe to the test today. Here it is!

Quick Jalapeno Poppers
10 Jalapeno Peppers
1 8 oz container cream cheese (or more, depending on the size of your peppers)
7 strips of bacon, uncooked

1. Begin by preheating the oven to 450 and washing your jalapenos to remove any pesticides or dirt.

2. Cut the stems off of the Jalapenos, and then cut each one in half lengthwise. Try to make the cuts as symmetrical as possible.

3. Using a spoon, scrape the seeds and white stuff out of each jalapeno half.
4. spread 1-2 teaspoons of cream cheese into each jalapeno half, making sure to spread evenly.

5. Cut each bacon strip into 3 even sections. Lay each piece over each jalapeno, tucking any extra over the open end to keep the cream cheese from leaking out.
6. Place the jalapenos on a tin foil lined cookie sheet. The foil collect a lot of the bacon grease so that the cookie sheet is easier to wash.

7. Bake in the oven for about ten minutes, or until the bacon is sizzling and crispy on the edges. The jalapenos will be soft, blistered, and the bottoms will be slightly blackened.
8. Allow to cool for five minutes and then enjoy! At various restaurants these are served with ranch, honey mustard, and even fruity dips. They also taste fine on their own.

The verdict? These were good, but not amazing. I'm surprised at how many people are content with them just the way they are. For one, the bacon seems unnecessary and it was definitely a waste on a vegetarian palate. I see a lot of room for improvement, and you can bet I'll be posting a recipe somewhere before football season is over that packs a much better jalapeno popper punch.

However, these were still yummy! They would be great to bring to a party or make in a pinch, hence the title 'quick' jalapeno poppers. They definitely serve their purpose in the world of food.

I hope you all had a great labor day weekend, enjoy the four day work week!


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